Durnstein, Melk and Austria’s Wachau Valley

Emerald Waterways' sleek Emerald Star docked in Durnstein, Austria on the morning of July 16, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Emerald Waterways’ sleek Emerald Star docked in Durnstein, Austria on the morning of July 16, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our Danube Delights itinerary aboard Emerald WaterwaysEmerald Star went into Austrian overdrive today as we called on two very small but beautiful towns nestled within the country’s picturesque Wachau Valley.

At 0800, we arrived in Durnstein, a picturesque little village located at Kilometre 2000 of the Danube that is notable for its blue-and-white cathedral and the medieval ruins of Kuenringerburg Fortress that dates back to the 12th Century. Kuenringerburg is rather interesting: it was almost entirely destroyed in 1645 by – of all people – the Swedes, who razed it during the Thirty Years’ War, toasted Skål, and caught the next minstrel-carriage back to Stockholm. Today, you can still hike up to the ruins of the fortress, which held Richard the Lionheart in 1193. Being imprisoned in wine country must have been terrible…

The view of Durnstein from my Panorama Balcony Suite aboard Emerald Star. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The view of Durnstein from my Panorama Balcony Suite aboard Emerald Star. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Emerald Waterways provides a guided walking tour of Durnstein, which I do recommend taking even though the village itself is quite small and home to just 950 year-round residents. You can walk it yourself, to be sure –but then you’d miss out on the fascinating history of the town.

Richard the Lionheart spent some time in Durstein as an unwilling tourist, imprisoned in the fortress in the upper left. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Richard the Lionheart spent some time in Durnstein as an unwilling tourist, imprisoned in the fortress in the upper left. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Durnstein's medieval history is on display to this day - and also in souvenir form. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Durnstein’s medieval history is on display to this day – and also in souvenir form. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Guests from onboard Emerald Star walk up to the town of Durnstein. Last year, the Danube flooded to extraordinary heights, rising to almost where this photo was taken. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Guests from onboard Emerald Star walk up to the town of Durnstein. Last year, the Danube flooded to extraordinary heights, rising to almost where this photo was taken. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Strolling through the quaint streets of Durnstein. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Strolling through the quaint streets of Durnstein. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Because I’ve been here before, I went half-and-half on the tour, sticking with our guide for the first 30 minutes and then peeling off when I saw one of my favorite stores open: Wieser. The Wachau Valley, where Durnstein is located, is noted not only for its fabulous wines, but also for what I like to call “apricot everything.” You can buy apricot schnapps, apricot liqueur, apricot-infused gin – even jars of apricot liqueur-infused gummies. For €12, I picked myself up some fantastic apricot liqueur that I plan to enjoy when I return home.

The pretty Stift Durnstein can be visited and explored for just three Euros. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The pretty Stift Durnstein can be visited and explored for just three Euros. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I also visited Stift Durnstein (Durnstein Cathedral) for the first time. All you have to do is pay a simple entry fee of €3, which is more than worth it to see the Baroque-style cathedral that was constructed between 1715 and 1733. If you follow the sign labelled “Kirche”, you will be taken to the church. Choosing the opposite direction takes you to a balustrade-lined observation deck in the shadow of the blue-and-white Clock Tower that overlooks the Danube.

Standing on the outer balcony of Durnstein's most famous landmark: the blue-and-white Stift Durnstein. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Standing on the outer balcony of Durnstein’s most famous landmark: the blue-and-white Stift Durnstein. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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Our Live Voyage Report onboard Emerald Waterways Emerald Star continues tomorrow as we sail the Danube and arrive in our first port of call in Germany – Passau! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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